"Why?" I ask to no one in particular. Why give her to me only to have her taken away so cruelly?
I'd never claimed to deserve her but to lose her in such a manner is an unjust punishment. A punishment from which I know I will never be free.
I remember everything now -- fighting and failing to save her life. Getting shot. I remember the blood draining from my body, taking my life along with it.
Luacas had already imagined that he would die young. Most of his death scenes had been at the hands of Kurt. Miraculously, he'd beaten those odds. Since he spends so much time in the air, he'd thought that a plane crash would do the trick and if not that, then his motorcycle. He's always been aware of his finite time on earth but not once had he pictured himself getting shot. None of his machinations had included finding love and losing her either. And yet, that's how death had come for him.
Where ever he is now, it has to be the place of the dead and if he can hear Alaine’s voice maybe she is too. It’s painfully sad to think that she is. The consensus must be true, then. You can find your loved ones after death. If that is the case and he can be with Alaine, then maybe death isn’t so bad after all.
He tries to follow her voice, still calling to him softly. A thick darkness descends, cloaking him in an impenetrable fog. He can see nothing and no one, only hear her soft words that he strains to move closer to.
He tries to say her name but his own voice is a weak echo spoken from somewhere outside of himself. The air around him feels strange. Everything does, including his own body -- like it no longer belongs to him.
While he would like to know just where he is, for now, his only intent is speaking her name and hearing her voice. If she hears him maybe she will be the one to break through the darkness and find him. That’s easy enough to believe. His goddess has done it once before. Maybe she can do it again.
Though he can’t see the wetness on his face, he can feel it, so he knows that he is crying.
How is it possible to be in so much pain if he’s dead?
Chastising himself for losing concentration and not paying attention, Lucas tries once more to focus on the voice that is now fading. Why had he stopped listening for it to think of these unimportant things?
He tries to zero in on Alaine's location again, but the darkness grows heavier.
A soft groan disrupts Shernie Bright’s light slumber on the sleep chair in the corner of the room. She’s been waiting for signs of life in her older brother for more than a week now -- anything beyond his soft breathing and the annoying beeping of the heart monitor to tell her that he is alive.
All she wants is for Lucas open his eyes and say one thing to her. He can call her a brat or spoiled. It doesn't really matter if it's a scolding she receives. She'll be content with that too.
Noting the little grunts coming from his bed, she shoots forward a little too quickly, trips over her own feet and lands face first into the floor. Too happy to care, she is up and beside Lucas’ bed in a jiffy.
“Lucas?” she pants, her eyes shifting quickly over his face.
He remains silent now and the urge to slap him into wakefulness makes her palm itch. Because she knows that it is impossible she'd only imagined the sound he'd made, she presses again.
“Lucas,” she leans beside his ear to say again. “Come on,” she whines. “It’s been ten days. Wake up already. I know you’re awake. I heard you.”
He makes a gurgling choking sound in his throat and a little whimper when she pokes at his side.
For a second, Shernie remains frozen in disbelief. Her eyes widen as she looks at his face waiting for his own to open. They don't but he makes a little noise in throat again.
“Oh my God,” Shernie gasps. Then she laughs as her tears blur her vision. “You’re awake. You’re really awake.”
In her relieved excitement, she forgets Lucas’ situation. Just as she is about to throw herself to hug him, a firm arm wraps around her waist and pulls her back.
“What do you think you’re doing, Shernie?” Dion scolds, setting her away from the bed. "Are you crazy?"
“He’s awake,” she announces in wonder, while barely containing her joy.
Dion’s eyes move way from her face to rest on Lucas in time to see him struggle with a deep intake of breath.
“I never thought I’d see him awake again,” Shernie sobers to say.
“I know kid,” Dion agrees. "Go get dad," he orders before turning his full attention to Lucas to remove the respiration tube snaked down his throat.
He lifts one of Lucas' eyelids and switches on his penlight and receives a groan of protest as a reward.
Ashe lights the little flash light in Lucas' other eye, Dion gets as similar reaction.
"Yes, that will be uncomfortable," he mutters. Then he smiles to himself and says, "welcome back brother. Can you hear me, Lucas? Move a finger if you can."
Instead of a twitch in the hand that he is expecting, Dion gets a full slow nod and a low grunt, which feels like miracle.
“That’s great, Luc. Really great,” he huffs with relief. “I still want to see those fingers move, though,” he adds, taking Lucas’ hand.
The light tremor and low pressure applied to his grip has Dion nodding his head in approval.
“Okay that’s good,” he says. “Can you open your eyes? Don’t try to talk,” Dion cautions, when Lucas grunts again. “You were intubated. Just open your eyes.”
“Water,” Lucas rasps against his gritty, painful sore throat.
“Hang on, little brother,” Dion tells him calmly. Internally however, he struggles to maintain a balance between his professionalism as Lucas’ doctor and his excitement and relief as a brother.
What he really wants is to be like Shernie and give his brother a damn hug with a heavy back slap to accompany it.
“You know,” he adds while watching Lucas struggle to obey and lift his eyelids. “I’m surprised your first word isn’t, Alaine,” he says, casually throwing the name around, before returning to the monitors and scribbling in Lucas’ patient file.
The mention of Alaine's name is jarring. Although, he's battling to remain conscious, Lucas feels it in his heart. It's all the confirmation that he needs to know that he really had died and this is in hell and this thing in front of him is, it isn't his brother. It has to be some sinister apparition in charge of his torment. Why else would Dion joke about something like that? Why would he laugh so callously when the heart monitor reports the surge in Lucas’ heart rate because of a name? Dion would know that he lost Alaine. He would know how much it hurts.
“Alright,” Dion tells him as his laughter quiets to a chuckle. “Settle down or I’ll have to order her cordoned off from you. Your heart rate needs to stay level. You may be awake now but you're still recovering."
Winning the fight with his heavy eyelids, Lucas finally opens gray eyes to a world of white light that is too bright and immediately sinks them close again.
“Where am I he croaks?”
“You’re in the hospital,” Dion explains.
After a pause in which confusion takes him back to his office to the moment he'd been shot, he asks, "I'm not dead?"
Dion chuckles again.
"No," he replies. "But you came pretty close, though."
A pained moan leaves Lucas. If it means living without Alaine, he'd rather be dead.
Though afraid of the answer, Lucas queries because he needs to know. “Alaine?” he questions mournfully. “Where is she?” he croaks while the steady beat of his heart alters, taking on an erratic rhythm.
“You need to calm down,” Dion tells him firmly. “Calm down Lucas,” he repeats when the beeping on the heart monitor continues a steady rise. “I’m going to sedate you,” he warns again. “Alaine is fine,” he says hoping that will do the trick but only serves to spike Lucas’ heart rate further.
He watches in shock as Lucas' entire body seizes up and he begins to hyperventilate.
“Shit,” Dion mutters and calls for cash a cart before leveling off Lucas’ bed so he lies flat on his back.
“What happened?” Arlington asks.
Dion slumps against the wall and exhales a slow breath of air.
"Shernie said that he was awake," Arlington presses. "Why can't I see him?"
Dion raises his eyes to the ceiling and wipes a tear that slips from his eyes. "I'm sorry," he says. "He went into cardiac arrest. He's stable now," he adds quickly. "But I had to sedate him. And we'll probably have to keep Alaine out of the room until he's able to hear her name without damn near having a coronary."
Shanice ends the call with her husband and eases into the parking spot outside Alaine’s therapist’s office. She sighs heavily. The last ten days have taken a toll on her. On her family. It's been a stressful time. Rolling her neck, she tries to figure out how to explain to Alaine that she is no longer allowed near Lucas. That just hearing her name had triggered a heart malfunction in him.
The news won’t be well received. She already knows that. Most likely, it will set back her recovery from PTSD by a mile. However, if she has to choose between that and Lucas’ recovery, it’s an easy decision to make.
She formulates what she is going to say to Alaine and concludes that, just like them, Alaine loves Lucas. She will want to do what's best for him. It's because of her love for Lucas that Shanice and their entire family had taken Alaine under their wings to take care of her until Lucas is able to do so again.
With that in mind, she summons the strength to do this merciless deed.
Alaine appears in the doorway. Her presence forces a shaky smile on Shanice's face.
Alaine gives her wave.
Since the harrowing ordeal with Angus, Shanice has become more aware of her petite stature. The girl is not much taller than a thirteen-year-old and in that moment, she looks so young and vulnerable, it makes Shanice's heart ache a little more over what she has to do.
Alaine enters the car.
"Tea," Shanice offers while handing her a cup.
She takes it gratefully and says, "thank you. You didn't have to but thank you."
"Your sister said that you thrive on the stuff," Shanice replies.
Noting that they're still stationery, Alaine asks, "is everything okay?"
“I don’t want you to panic,” Shanice tells her and immediately regrets her choice of words.
Alaine's eyes widen. Her hands pick up a light tremor.
"Is he..." she starts to ask.
“He’s fine. As a matter of fact, he woke up,” she Shanice explains quickly. “He spoke to Dion. Said ‘ow’, when Shernie poked him,” she adds, trying to lighten the mood.
Sensing that something bad is coming, Alaine poses her next question hesitantly.
“He went into cardiac arrest but he’s stable again. He was sedated and they’re going to keep him that way for a day or two. It’s necessary, Alaine,” she explains. “His heart is not yet strong enough and...” Shanice continues reluctantly. “They’re going to have to keep you out of his room until he is stronger.”
A few seconds elapse while Alaine takes in what she'd heard. In that time she tries to clear her confusion. Two things hit her at once.
The first is that, Lucas is awake and her heart soars but the second sends her crashing back to earth. She looks at Shanice and swallows. They've over-extended themselves to her over the last ten days when she doesn't deserve their kindness. She's always know that they would eventually figure it out. Everything that Lucas has suffered is her fault and she can blame them for wanting her to keep her distance.
As much as it pains her, Alaine agrees quickly and swallows down her tears. “Of course," she says. “I’ll come back when you all want me to."
“That’s not it,” Shanice says resting a reassuring hand on Alaine’s with a weary sigh. “From what Dion told me, he was worried about you. He asked for you and Dion told him you were fine. But Lucas hasn’t had time to deal with the shock of what happened. He doesn’t know what happened with you and I suspect waking up was a shock to him.”
“The last thing he saw was Angus taking me,” Alaine admits with tears streaming down her face.
“He’ll get better, Ali,” Shanice tells her. “You just can’t be around to see it for now.”
As hurtful as it is and with her guilt still eating away at her, Alaine nods to show her understanding and lets out a broken sob.
“Whatever he needs,” she whispers hoarsely.